Saturday, August 12, 2006
What else I might still be...
The Sunday Scribblings prompt this week is: WHO else might I still be? I chose to change it to: WHAT else might I still be?
I will be ashes some day. Not for me that strange chemical facsimile of self, reluctant to decompose. It’s not the decomposition that troubles me. Presumably I won’t be there to smell it -- it’s just the real estate of the grave. The living take up enough space in this world. Why cede land to the dead? No cemetery for me and no urn. Just turn me loose, somewhere wild.
But apart from ashes, what else might I still be? Might I be a ghost? I think I would like to be a ghost for a while, to observe the living. I would choose one to follow, like I did one morning in Venice when I woke at dawn and went out to watch the Venetians hurrying to work. They knew all the shortcuts and alleys, all the tiny bridges, and I followed one after another, getting hopelessly lost, getting drawn into the heart of a secret city where real people did plain things, even within those dreamlike palazzi.
As a ghost, I will pass through walls and perch on the tall backs of chairs. I will taste the food on people’s forks as they lift them to their lips. I will listen to their lullabyes and laments, and I will disrupt their televisions so they have to find other ways to spend the evening. With a Ouija board, maybe. I’ll spell them secrets, like who is in love with them, and who is not.
Or might I be a shade? Might I awaken in the antechamber to the afterlife to hear the jolly I-told-you-so’s of Christians as they’re whisked rapturously upward? Might I be left to loll in Purgatory, forever seeing up the skirts of the righteous as they’re hefted to heaven? Maybe. Or are atheists sent down like hooligans to the headmaster’s office? I’ll be surly as a schoolboy. I’ll repeat every sentence the devils utter til they’re gritting their teeth. I’ll say, “I know you are, but what am I?” I’ll hold up two fingers behind their heads like horns whenever a photo is being snapped. I’ll run when I’m supposed to walk, and tapdance when I’m supposed to slouch.
Or might I get a chance to audition for heaven, despite my disbelief? Wouldn’t that be nice, if all the heathen babies didn’t burn in eternal hellfire? Even if I made it through and paradise was wonderful and golden, I would want to sneak back to life and tell people: “You only have to be good!” I would spread the word like an agnostic gospel: Be good and help people. That’s all that matters! (And maybe not telling other people they’re going to Hell looks good on your heavenly resume?)
But what do I really think I will be next, many many years from now? A body whose brain will inevitably fall still, and after that ashes, and then, nothing. It might not be as exciting as ghostlife or tapdancing in hell, but it’s not sad. Life is a beautiful thing, a shimmer, like a thread of spidersilk catching the light. And I think once it’s gone it’s gone, so you should love it all you can and not get caught up in dreaming how important you’ll be in Heaven, and whether God will remember your name or have to be reminded by the angel with the clipboard.
Posted by Laini Taylor at 9:55 AM